Vincenzo Montella reunites with old friend Davide Nicola as Milan host Crotone and warns “this is worth three points, the same as facing Juventus.”
It kicks off on Sunday at 11.30 GMT, click here for a match preview.
The Rossoneri will be wearing special edition shirts featuring the Chapecoense badge and they will be sold after the game to raise funds for the Brazilian team that was almost wiped out in a plane crash.
“We are very close to this tragedy and I am not just referring to the players, but all those people who were on the plane such as kit staff, journalists and sponsors. I am glad Milan took this initiative to place the Brazilian club’s symbol on the sleeve,” said Montella in his Press conference.
His rapport with Crotone Coach Nicola goes back a long way.
“We played together for six months at Genoa in Serie B. I remember we formed a great friendship and he forced me to buy a Paulo Coelho book that I read in two days before a match. We also took the Coverciano coaching course together, so I know he’s well-prepared tactically and psychologically to deal with players.
“It is Crotone’s first Serie A season and they needed time to adapt, plus of course they were penalised by not being able to play in their home stadium for the first few months. Since the Stadio Scida was re-opened, the team has gained back some confidence.
“They were right in it to the end against Sassuolo and Fiorentina, while at San Siro with Inter they were still on 0-0 until the 80th minute. It is absolutely not an easy match, but then again Serie A teaches us that constantly.
“The three points against Crotone are worth just as much as the three points against Juventus. We have to focus on our principles to reach victory.”
There is a curious statistic that last season saw Milan pick up only seven out of a possible 18 points against the teams that were eventually relegated.
“Patience, confidence and focus are the fundamental characteristics when facing the medium-to-small sides. We still need to improve in that sense.
“We are just over a third of the way into the season and are happy with how things are going, but the table is tight and we mustn’t make predictions. Lazio are also an important competitor while Inter, even if they are behind right now, have top level players.”
Could being in joint second place and with a weekend of favourable fixtures go to Milan’s head?
“A Coach has to predict every eventuality,” replied Montella. “This could be a possibility, but in recent games I have to say they reacted in a brilliant way.
“We might’ve had a few dips within matches due to this, but I saw an important response.”
So many Coaches have gone through Milan in recent years and come out the other side battered, so how will Montella deal with the stress?
“You have to concentrate only on the pitch. There’s no point thinking about the future.”